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The Little Book of Modern Verse

Part 3 out of 5

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You Pole with the child on your knee,
What dower bring you to the land of the free?
Hark! does she croon
That sad little tune
That Chopin once found on his Polish lea
And mounted in gold for you and for me?
Now a ragged young fiddler answers
In wild Czech melody
That Dvorak took whole from the dancers.
And the heavy faces bloom
In the wonderful Slavic way;
The little, dull eyes, the brows a-gloom,
Suddenly dawn like the day.
While, watching these folk and their mystery,
I forget that they're nothing worth;
That Bohemians, Slovaks, Croatians,
And men of all Slavic nations
Are "polacks" -- and "scum o' the earth".


Genoese boy of the level brow,
Lad of the lustrous, dreamy eyes
A-stare at Manhattan's pinnacles now
In the first sweet shock of a hushed surprise;
Within your far-rapt seer's eyes
I catch the glow of the wild surmise
That played on the Santa Maria's prow
In that still gray dawn,
Four centuries gone,
When a world from the wave began to rise.
Oh, it's hard to foretell what high emprise
Is the goal that gleams
When Italy's dreams
Spread wing and sweep into the skies.
Caesar dreamed him a world ruled well;
Dante dreamed Heaven out of Hell;
Angelo brought us there to dwell;
And you, are you of a different birth? --
You're only a "dago", -- and "scum o' the earth"!


Stay, are we doing you wrong
Calling you "scum o' the earth",
Man of the sorrow-bowed head,
Of the features tender yet strong, --
Man of the eyes full of wisdom and mystery
Mingled with patience and dread?
Have not I known you in history,
Sorrow-bowed head?
Were you the poet-king, worth
Treasures of Ophir unpriced?
Were you the prophet, perchance, whose art
Foretold how the rabble would mock
That shepherd of spirits, erelong,
Who should carry the lambs on his heart
And tenderly feed his flock?
Man -- lift that sorrow-bowed head.
Lo! 't is the face of the Christ!

The vision dies at its birth.
You're merely a butt for our mirth.
You're a "sheeny" -- and therefore despised
And rejected as "scum o' the earth".


Countrymen, bend and invoke
Mercy for us blasphemers,
For that we spat on these marvelous folk,
Nations of darers and dreamers,
Scions of singers and seers,
Our peers, and more than our peers.
"Rabble and refuse", we name them
And "scum o' the earth", to shame them.
Mercy for us of the few, young years,
Of the culture so callow and crude,
Of the hands so grasping and rude,
The lips so ready for sneers
At the sons of our ancient more-than-peers.
Mercy for us who dare despise
Men in whose loins our Homer lies;
Mothers of men who shall bring to us
The glory of Titian, the grandeur of Huss;
Children in whose frail arms shall rest
Prophets and singers and saints of the West.

Newcomers all from the eastern seas,
Help us incarnate dreams like these.
Forget, and forgive, that we did you wrong.
Help us to father a nation, strong
In the comradeship of an equal birth,
In the wealth of the richest bloods of earth.

Da Boy from Rome. [Thomas Augustine Daly]

To-day ees com' from Eetaly
A boy ees leeve een Rome,
An' he ees stop an' speak weeth me --
I weesh he stay at home.

He stop an' say "Hallo," to me.
An' w'en he standin' dere
I smal da smal of Eetaly
Steell steeckin' een hees hair,
Dat com' weeth heem across da sea,
An' een da clo'es he wear.

Da peopla bomp heem een da street,
Da noise ees scare heem, too;
He ees so clumsy een da feet
He don't know w'at to do,
Dere ees so many theeng he meet
Dat ees so strange, so new.

He sheever an' he ask eef here
Eet ees so always cold.
Den een hees eye ees com' a tear --
He ees no vera old --
An', oh, hees voice ees soun' so queer
I have no heart for scold.

He look up een da sky so gray,
But oh, hees eye ees be
So far away, so far away,
An' w'at he see I see.
Da sky eet ees no gray to-day
At home een Eetaly.

He see da glada peopla seet
Where warma shine da sky --
Oh, while he eesa look at eet
He ees baygeen to cry.
Eef I no growl an' swear a beet
So, too, my frand, would I.

Oh, why he stop an' speak weeth me,
Dees boy dat leeve een Rome,
An' com' to-day from Eetaly?
I weesh he stay at home.

The Fugitives. [Florence Wilkinson]

We are they that go, that go,
Plunging before the hidden blow.
We run the byways of the earth,
For we are fugitive from birth,
Blindfolded, with wide hands abroad
That sow, that sow the sullen sod.

We cannot wait, we cannot stop
For flushing field or quickened crop;
The orange bow of dusky dawn
Glimmers our smoking swath upon;
Blindfolded still we hurry on.

How we do know the ways we run
That are blindfolded from the sun?
We stagger swiftly to the call,
Our wide hands feeling for the wall.

Oh, ye who climb to some clear heaven,
By grace of day and leisure given,
Pity us, fugitive and driven --
The lithe whip curling on our track,
The headlong haste that looks not back!

The Song of the Unsuccessful. [Richard Burton]

We are the toilers from whom God barred
The gifts that are good to hold.
We meant full well and we tried full hard,
And our failures were manifold.

And we are the clan of those whose kin
Were a millstone dragging them down.
Yea, we had to sweat for our brother's sin,
And lose the victor's crown.

The seeming-able, who all but scored,
From their teeming tribe we come:
What was there wrong with us, O Lord,
That our lives were dark and dumb?

The men ten-talented, who still
Strangely missed of the goal,
Of them we are: it seems Thy will
To harrow some in soul.

We are the sinners, too, whose lust
Conquered the higher claims,
We sat us prone in the common dust,
And played at the devil's games.

We are the hard-luck folk, who strove
Zealously, but in vain;
We lost and lost, while our comrades throve,
And still we lost again.

We are the doubles of those whose way
Was festal with fruits and flowers;
Body and brain we were sound as they,
But the prizes were not ours.

A mighty army our full ranks make,
We shake the graves as we go;
The sudden stroke and the slow heartbreak,
They both have brought us low.

And while we are laying life's sword aside,
Spent and dishonored and sad,
Our epitaph this, when once we have died:
"The weak lie here, and the bad."

We wonder if this can be really the close,
Life's fever cooled by death's trance;
And we cry, though it seem to our dearest of foes,
"God, give us another chance!"

They went forth to Battle, but they always fell. [Shaemas O Sheel]

They went forth to battle, but they always fell;
Their eyes were fixed above the sullen shields;
Nobly they fought and bravely, but not well,
And sank heart-wounded by a subtle spell.
They knew not fear that to the foeman yields,
They were not weak, as one who vainly wields
A futile weapon; yet the sad scrolls tell
How on the hard-fought field they always fell.

It was a secret music that they heard,
A sad sweet plea for pity and for peace;
And that which pierced the heart was but a word,
Though the white breast was red-lipped where the sword
Pressed a fierce cruel kiss, to put surcease
On its hot thirst, but drank a hot increase.
Ah, they by some strange troubling doubt were stirred,
And died for hearing what no foeman heard.

They went forth to battle but they always fell;
Their might was not the might of lifted spears;
Over the battle-clamor came a spell
Of troubling music, and they fought not well.
Their wreaths are willows and their tribute, tears;
Their names are old sad stories in men's ears;
Yet they will scatter the red hordes of Hell,
Who went to battle forth and always fell.

The Eagle that is forgotten. [Nicholas Vachel Lindsay]

(John P. Altgeld)

Sleep softly . . . eagle forgotten . . . under the stone.
Time has its way with you there, and the clay has its own.
"We have buried him now," thought your foes, and in secret rejoiced.
They made a brave show of their mourning, their hatred unvoiced.
They had snarled at you, barked at you, foamed at you, day after day.
Now you were ended. They praised you . . . and laid you away.
The others, that mourned you in silence and terror and truth,
The widow bereft of her crust, and the boy without youth,
The mocked and the scorned and the wounded, the lame and the poor,
That should have remembered forever, . . . remember no more.
Where are those lovers of yours, on what name do they call,
The lost, that in armies wept over your funeral pall?
They call on the names of a hundred high-valiant ones,
A hundred white eagles have risen, the sons of your sons.
The zeal in their wings is a zeal that your dreaming began,
The valor that wore out your soul in the service of man.
Sleep softly . . . eagle forgotten . . . under the stone.
Time has its way with you there, and the clay has its own.
Sleep on, O brave-hearted, O wise man that kindled the flame --
To live in mankind is far more than to live in a name,
To live in mankind, far, far more than to live in a name! --

A Memorial Tablet. [Florence Wilkinson]

Oh, Agathocles, fare thee well!

Naked and brave thou goest
Without one glance behind!
Hast thou no fear, Agathocles,
Or backward grief of mind?

The dreamy dog beside thee
Presses against thy knee;
He, too, oh, sweet Agathocles,
Is deaf and visioned like thee.

Thou art so lithe and lovely
And yet thou art not ours.
What Delphic saying compels thee
Of kings or topless towers?

That little blowing mantle
Thou losest from thine arm --
No shoon nor staff, Agathocles,
Nor sword, to fend from harm!

Thou hast the changed impersonal
Awed brow of mystery --
Yesterday thou wast burning,
Mad boy, for Glaucoe.

Philis thy mother calls thee:
Mine eyes with tears are dim,
Turn once, look once, Agathocles --
(~The gods have blinded him.~)

Come back, Agathocles, the night --
Brings thee what place of rest?
Wine-sweet are Glaucoe's kisses,
Flower-soft her budding breast.

He seems to hearken, Glaucoe,
He seems to listen and smile;
(~Nay, Philis, but a god-song
He follows this many a mile.~)

Come back, come back, Agathocles!
(~He scents the asphodel;
Unearthly swift he runneth.~)
Agathocles, farewell!

To-Day. [Helen Gray Cone]

Voice, with what emulous fire thou singest free hearts of old fashion,
English scorners of Spain, sweeping the blue sea-way,
Sing me the daring of life for life, the magnanimous passion
Of man for man in the mean populous streets of To-day!

Hand, with what color and power thou couldst show, in the ring hot-sanded,
Brown Bestiarius holding the lean tawn tiger at bay,
Paint me the wrestle of Toil with the wild-beast Want, bare-handed;
Shadow me forth a soul steadily facing To-day!

The Man with the Hoe. [Edwin Markham]

(Written after seeing Millet's world-famous painting)

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes,
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?
Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
To have dominion over sea and land;
To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
To feel the passion of Eternity?
Is this the Dream He dreamed who shaped the suns
And marked their ways upon the ancient deep?
Down all the stretch of Hell to its last gulf
There is no shape more terrible than this --
More tongued with censure of the world's blind greed --
More filled with signs and portents for the soul --
More fraught with menace to the universe.

What gulfs between him and the seraphim!
Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him
Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades?
What the long reaches of the peaks of song,
The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?
Through this dread shape the suffering ages look;
Time's tragedy is in that aching stoop;
Through this dread shape humanity betrayed,
Plundered, profaned and disinherited,
Cries protest to the Judges of the World,
A protest that is also prophecy.

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
Is this the handiwork you give to God,
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenched?
How will you ever straighten up this shape;
Touch it again with immortality;
Give back the upward looking and the light;
Rebuild in it the music and the dream;
Make right the immemorial infamies,
Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
How will the Future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake the world?
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings --
With those who shaped him to the thing he is --
When this dumb Terror shall reply to God,
After the silence of the centuries?

Exordium. [George Cabot Lodge]

Speak! said my soul, be stern and adequate;
The sunset falls from Heaven, the year is late,
Love waits with fallen tresses at thy gate
And mourns for perished days.
Speak! in the rigor of thy fate and mine,
Ere these scant, dying days, bright-lipped with wine,
All one by one depart, resigned, divine,
Through desert, autumn ways.

Speak! thou art lonely in thy chilly mind,
With all this desperate solitude of wind,
The solitude of tears that make thee blind,
Of wild and causeless tears.
Speak! thou hast need of me, heart, hand and head,
Speak, if it be an echo of thy dread,
A dirge of hope, of young illusions dead --
Perchance God hears!

The Frozen Grail. [Elsa Barker]

(To Peary and his men, before the last expedition)

Why sing the legends of the Holy Grail,
The dead crusaders of the Sepulchre,
While these men live? Are the great bards all dumb?
Here is a vision to shake the blood of Song,
And make Fame's watchman tremble at his post.

What shall prevail against the spirit of man,
When cold, the lean and snarling wolf of hunger,
The threatening spear of ice-mailed Solitude,
Silence, and space, and ghostly-footed Fear
Prevail not? Dante, in his frozen hell
Shivering, endured no bleakness like the void
These men have warmed with their own flaming will,
And peopled with their dreams. The wind from fierce
Arcturus in their faces, at their backs
The whip of the world's doubt, and in their souls
Courage to die -- if death shall be the price
Of that cold cup that will assuage their thirst;
They climb, and fall, and stagger toward the goal.
They lay themselves the road whereby they travel,
And sue God for a franchise. Does He watch
Behind the lattice of the boreal lights?
In that grail-chapel of their stern-vowed quest,
Ninety of God's long paces toward the North,
Will they behold the splendor of His face?
To conquer the world must man renounce the world?
These have renounced it. Had ye only faith
Ye might move mountains, said the Nazarene.
Why, these have faith to move the zones of man
Out to the point where All and Nothing meet.
They catch the bit of Death between their teeth,
In one wild dash to trample the unknown
And leap the gates of knowledge. They have dared
Even to defy the sentinel that guards
The doors of the forbidden -- dared to hurl
Their breathing bodies after the Ideal,
That like the heavenly kingdom must be taken
Only by violence. The star that leads
The leader of this quest has held the world
True to its orbit for a million years.

And shall he fail? They never fail who light
Their lamp of faith at the unwavering flame
Burnt for the altar service of the Race
Since the beginning. He shall find the strange --
The white immaculate Virgin of the North,
Whose steady gaze no mortal ever dared,
Whose icy hand no human ever grasped.
In the dread silence and the solitude
She waits and listens through the centuries
For one indomitable, destined soul,
Born to endure the glory of her eyes,
And lift his warm lips to the frozen Grail.

The Unconquered Air. [Florence Earle Coates]


Others endure Man's rule: he therefore deems
I shall endure it -- I, the unconquered Air!
Imagines this triumphant strength may bear
His paltry sway! yea, ignorantly dreams,
Because proud Rhea now his vassal seems,
And Neptune him obeys in billowy lair,
That he a more sublime assault may dare,
Where blown by tempest wild the vulture screams!

Presumptuous, he mounts: I toss his bones
Back from the height supernal he has braved:
Ay, as his vessel nears my perilous zones,
I blow the cockle-shell away like chaff
And give him to the Sea he has enslaved.
He founders in its depths; and then I laugh!


Impregnable I held myself, secure
Against intrusion. Who can measure Man?
How should I guess his mortal will outran
Defeat so far that danger could allure
For its own sake? -- that he would all endure,
All sacrifice, all suffer, rather than
Forego the daring dreams Olympian
That prophesy to him of victory sure?

Ah, tameless courage! -- dominating power
That, all attempting, in a deathless hour
Made earth-born Titans godlike, in revolt! --
Fear is the fire that melts Icarian wings:
Who fears nor Fate, nor Time, nor what Time brings,
May drive Apollo's steeds, or wield the thunderbolt!

The Happiest Heart. [John Vance Cheney]

Who drives the horses of the sun
Shall lord it but a day;
Better the lowly deed were done,
And kept the humble way.

The rust will find the sword of fame,
The dust will hide the crown;
Ay, none shall nail so high his name
Time will not tear it down.

The happiest heart that ever beat
Was in some quiet breast
That found the common daylight sweet,
And left to Heaven the rest.

To a New York Shop-Girl dressed for Sunday. [Anna Hempstead Branch]

To-day I saw the shop-girl go
Down gay Broadway to meet her beau.

Conspicuous, splendid, conscious, sweet,
She spread abroad and took the street.

And all that niceness would forbid,
Superb, she smiled upon and did.

Let other girls, whose happier days
Preserve the perfume of their ways,

Go modestly. The passing hour
Adds splendor to their opening flower.

But from this child too swift a doom
Must steal her prettiness and bloom,

Toil and weariness hide the grace
That pleads a moment from her face.

So blame her not if for a day
She flaunts her glories while she may.

She half perceives, half understands,
Snatching her gifts with both her hands.

The little strut beneath the skirt
That lags neglected in the dirt,

The indolent swagger down the street --
Who can condemn such happy feet!

Innocent! vulgar -- that's the truth!
Yet with the darling wiles of youth!

The bright, self-conscious eyes that stare
With such hauteur, beneath such hair!
~Perhaps the men will find me fair!~

Charming and charmed, flippant, arrayed,
Fluttered and foolish, proud, displayed,
Infinite pathos of parade!

The bangles and the narrowed waist --
The tinsled boa -- forgive the taste!
Oh, the starved nights she gave for that,
And bartered bread to buy her hat!

She flows before the reproachful sage
And begs her woman's heritage.

Dear child, with the defiant eyes,
Insolent with the half surmise
We do not quite admire, I know
How foresight frowns on this vain show!

And judgment, wearily sad, may see
No grace in such frivolity.

Yet which of us was ever bold
To worship Beauty, hungry and cold!

Scorn famine down, proudly expressed
Apostle to what things are best.

Let him who starves to buy the food
For his soul's comfort find her good,

Nor chide the frills and furbelows
That are the prettiest things she knows.

Poet and prophet in God's eyes
Make no more perfect sacrifice.

Who knows before what inner shrine
She eats with them the bread and wine?

Poor waif! One of the sacred few
That madly sought the best they knew!

Dear -- let me lean my cheek to-night
Close, close to yours. Ah, that is right.

How warm and near! At last I see
One beauty shines for thee and me.

So let us love and understand --
Whose hearts are hidden in God's hand.

And we will cherish your brief Spring
And all its fragile flowering.

God loves all prettiness, and on this
Surely his angels lay their kiss.

A Faun in Wall Street. [John Myers O'Hara]

What shape so furtive steals along the dim
Bleak street, barren of throngs, this day of June;
This day of rest, when all the roses swoon
In Attic vales where dryads wait for him?
What sylvan this, and what the stranger whim
That lured him here this golden afternoon;
Ways where the dusk has fallen oversoon
In the deep canyon, torrentless and grim?

Great Pan is far, O mad estray, and these
Bare walls that leap to heaven and hide the skies
Are fanes men rear to other deities;
Far to the east the haunted woodland lies,
And cloudless still, from cyclad-dotted seas,
Hymettus and the hills of Hellas rise.

The Mystic. [Witter Bynner]

By seven vineyards on one hill
We walked. The native wine
In clusters grew beside us two,
For your lips and for mine,

When, "Hark!" you said, -- "Was that a bell
Or a bubbling spring we heard?"
But I was wise and closed my eyes
And listened to a bird;

For as summer leaves are bent and shake
With singers passing through,
So moves in me continually
The winged breath of you.

You tasted from a single vine
And took from that your fill --
But I inclined to every kind,
All seven on one hill.

The Cloud. [Josephine Preston Peabody]

The islands called me far away,
The valleys called me home.
The rivers with a silver voice
Drew on my heart to come.

The paths reached tendrils to my hair
From every vine and tree.
There was no refuge anywhere
Until I came to thee.

There is a northern cloud I know,
Along a mountain crest;
And as she folds her wings of mist,
So I could make my rest.

There is no chain to bind her so
Unto that purple height;
And she will shine and wander, slow,
Slow, with a cloud's delight.

Would she begone? She melts away,
A heavenly joyous thing.
Yet day will find the mountain white,
White-folded with her wing.

As you may see, but half aware
If it be late or soon,
Soft breathing on the day-time air,
The fair forgotten Moon.

And though love cannot bind me, Love,
-- Ah no! -- yet I could stay
Maybe, with wings forever spread,
-- Forever, and a day.

The Thought of her. [Richard Hovey]

My love for thee doth take me unaware,
When most with lesser things my brain is wrought,
As in some nimble interchange of thought
The silence enters, and the talkers stare.
Suddenly I am still and thou art there,
A viewless visitant and unbesought,
And all my thinking trembles into nought
And all my being opens like a prayer.
Thou art the lifted Chalice in my soul,
And I a dim church at the thought of thee;
Brief be the moment, but the mass is said,
The benediction like an aureole
Is on my spirit, and shuddering through me
A rapture like the rapture of the dead.

Song. "If love were but a little thing --". [Florence Earle Coates]

If love were but a little thing --
Strange love, which, more than all, is great --
One might not such devotion bring,
Early to serve and late.

If love were but a passing breath --
Wild love -- which, as God knows, is sweet --
One might not make of life and death
A pillow for love's feet.

The Rosary. [Robert Cameron Rogers]

The hours I spent with thee, dear heart,
Are as a string of pearls to me;
I count them over, every one apart,
My rosary.

Each hour a pearl, each pearl a prayer,
To still a heart in absence wrung;
I tell each bead unto the end -- and there
A cross is hung.

Oh, memories that bless -- and burn!
Oh, barren gain -- and bitter loss!
I kiss each bead, and strive at last to learn
To kiss the cross,
To kiss the cross.

Once. [Trumbull Stickney]

That day her eyes were deep as night.
She had the motion of the rose,
The bird that veers across the light,
The waterfall that leaps and throws
Its irised spindrift to the sun.
She seemed a wind of music passing on.

Alone I saw her that one day
Stand in the window of my life.
Her sudden hand melted away
Under my lips, and without strife
I held her in my arms awhile
And drew into my lips her living smile, --

Now many a day ago and year!
Since when I dream and lie awake
In summer nights to feel her near,
And from the heavy darkness break
Glitters, till all my spirit swims
And her hand hovers on my shaking limbs.

If once again before I die
I drank the laughter of her mouth
And quenched my fever utterly,
I say, and should it cost my youth,
'T were well! for I no more should wait
Hammering midnight on the doors of fate.

Love knocks at the Door. [John Hall Wheelock]

In the pain, in the loneliness of love,
To the heart of my sweet I fled.
I knocked at the door of her living heart,
"Let in -- let in --" I said.

"What seek you here?" the voices cried,
"You seeker among the dead" --
"Herself I seek, herself I seek,
Let in -- let in!" I said.

They opened the door of her living heart,
But the core thereof was dead.
They opened the core of her living heart --
A worm at the core there fed.

"Where is my sweet, where is my sweet?"
"She is gone away, she is fled.
Long years ago she fled away,
She will never return," they said.

The Candle and the Flame. [George Sylvester Viereck]

Thy hands are like cool herbs that bring
Balm to men's hearts, upon them laid;
Thy lovely-petalled lips are made
As any blossom of the spring.
But in thine eyes there is a thing,
O Love, that makes me half afraid.

For they are old, those eyes . . . They gleam
Between the waking and the dream
With antique wisdom, like a bright
Lamp strangled by the temple's veil,
That beckons to the acolyte
Who prays with trembling lips and pale
In the long watches of the night.

They are as old as Life. They were
When proud Gomorrah reared its head
A new-born city. They were there
When in the places of the dead
Men swathed the body of the Lord.
They visioned Pa-wak raise the wall
Of China. They saw Carthage fall
And marked the grim Hun lead his horde.

There is no secret anywhere
Nor any joy or shame that lies
Not writ somehow in those child-eyes
Of thine, O Love, in some strange wise.
Thou art the lad Endymion,
And that great queen with spice and myrrh
From Araby, whom Solomon
Delighted, and the lust of her.

The legions marching from the sea
With Caesar's cohorts sang of thee,
How thy fair head was more to him
Than all the land of Italy.
Yea, in the old days thou wast she
Who lured Mark Antony from home
To death and Egypt, seeing he
Lost love when he lost Rome.

Thou saw'st old Tubal strike the lyre,
Yea, first for thee the poet hurled
Defiance at God's starry choir!
Thou art the romance and the fire,
Thou art the pageant and the strife,
The clamour, mounting high and higher,
From all the lovers in the world
To all the lords of love and life.

. . . . .

Perhaps the passions of mankind
Are but the torches mystical
Lit by some spirit-hand to find
The dwelling of the Master-Mind
That knows the secret of it all,
In the great darkness and the wind.

We are the Candle, Love the Flame,
Each little life-light flickers out,
Love bides, immortally the same:
When of life's fever we shall tire
He will desert us and the fire
Rekindle new in prince or lout.

Twin-born of knowledge and of lust,
He was before us, he shall be
Indifferent still of thee and me,
When shattered is life's golden cup,
When thy young limbs are shrivelled up,
And when my heart is turned to dust.

Nay, sweet, smile not to know at last
That thou and I, or knave, or fool,
Are but the involitient tool
Of some world-purpose vague and vast.
No bar to passion's fury set,
With monstrous poppies spice the wine:
For only drunk are we divine,
And only mad shall we forget!

Stains. [Theodosia Garrison]

The three ghosts on the lonesome road
Spake each to one another,
"Whence came that stain about your mouth
No lifted hand may cover?"
"From eating of forbidden fruit,
Brother, my brother."

The three ghosts on the sunless road
Spake each to one another,
"Whence came that red burn on your foot
No dust nor ash may cover?"
"I stamped a neighbor's hearth-flame out,
Brother, my brother."

The three ghosts on the windless road
Spake each to one another,
"Whence came that blood upon your hand
No other hand may cover?"
"From breaking of a woman's heart,
Brother, my brother."

"Yet on the earth clean men we walked,
Glutton and Thief and Lover;
White flesh and fair it hid our stains
That no man might discover."
"Naked the soul goes up to God,
Brother, my brother."

De Massa ob de Sheepfol'. [Sarah Pratt McLean Greene]

De massa ob de sheepfol'
Dat guard de sheepfol' bin,
Look out in de gloomerin' meadows
Whar de long night rain begin --
So he call to de hirelin' shephe'd:
"Is my sheep -- is dey all come in?"

Oh den, says de hirelin' shephe'd,
"Dey's some, dey's black and thin,
And some, dey's po' ol' wedda's --
But de res', dey's all brung in.
But de res', dey's all brung in."

Den de massa ob de sheepfol'
Dat guard de sheepfol' bin,
Goes down in de gloomerin' meadows
Whar de long night rain begin --
So he le' down de ba's ob de sheepfol',
Callin' sof': "Come in! Come in!"
Callin' sof': "Come in! Come in!"

Den up t'ro de gloomerin' meadows,
T'ro de col' night rain an' win',
An' up t'ro de gloomerin' rain-paf
Whar de sleet fa' piercin' thin --
De po' los' sheep ob de sheepfol'
Dey all comes gadderin' in.
De po' los' sheep ob de sheepfol',
Dey all comes gadderin' in!

Black Sheep. [Richard Burton]

From their folded mates they wander far,
Their ways seem harsh and wild;
They follow the beck of a baleful star,
Their paths are dream-beguiled.

Yet haply they sought but a wider range,
Some loftier mountain-slope,
And little recked of the country strange
Beyond the gates of hope.

And haply a bell with a luring call
Summoned their feet to tread
Midst the cruel rocks, where the deep pitfall
And the lurking snare are spread.

Maybe, in spite of their tameless days
Of outcast liberty,
They're sick at heart for the homely ways
Where their gathered brothers be.

And oft at night, when the plains fall dark
And the hills loom large and dim,
For the Shepherd's voice they mutely hark,
And their souls go out to him.

Meanwhile, "Black sheep! Black sheep!" we cry,
Safe in the inner fold;
And maybe they hear, and wonder why,
And marvel, out in the cold.

Let me no more a Mendicant. [Arthur Colton]

Let me no more a mendicant
Without the gate
Of the world's kingly palace wait;
Morning is spent,
The sentinels change and challenge in the tower,
Now slant the shadows eastward hour by hour.

Open the door, O Seneschal! Within
I see them sit,
The feasters, daring destiny with wit,
Casting to win
Or lose their utmost, and men hurry by
At offices of confluent energy.

Let me not here a mendicant
Without the gate
Linger from dayspring till the night is late,
And there are sent
All homeless stars to loiter in the sky,
And beggared midnight winds to wander by.

Lincoln, the Man of the People. [Edwin Markham]

When the Norn Mother saw the Whirlwind Hour
Greatening and darkening as it hurried on,
She left the Heaven of Heroes and came down
To make a man to meet the mortal need.
She took the tried clay of the common road --
Clay warm yet with the genial heat of Earth,
Dashed through it all a strain of prophecy;
Tempered the heap with thrill of human tears;
Then mixed a laughter with the serious stuff.
Into the shape she breathed a flame to light
That tender, tragic, ever-changing face.
Here was a man to hold against the world,
A man to match the mountains and the sea.

The color of the ground was in him, the red earth;
The smack and tang of elemental things;
The rectitude and patience of the cliff;
The good-will of the rain that loves all leaves;
The friendly welcome of the wayside well;
The courage of the bird that dares the sea;
The gladness of the wind that shakes the corn;
The pity of the snow that hides all scars;
The secrecy of streams that make their way
Beneath the mountain to the rifted rock;
The tolerance and equity of light
That gives as freely to the shrinking flower
As to the great oak flaring to the wind --
To the grave's low hill as to the Matterhorn
That shoulders out the sky.

Sprung from the West,
The strength of virgin forests braced his mind,
The hush of spacious prairies stilled his soul.
Up from log cabin to the Capitol,
One fire was on his spirit, one resolve --
To send the keen ax to the root of wrong,
Clearing a free way for the feet of God.
And evermore he burned to do his deed
With the fine stroke and gesture of a king:
He built the rail-pile as he built the State,
Pouring his splendid strength through every blow,
The conscience of him testing every stroke,
To make his deed the measure of a man.

So came the Captain with the mighty heart;
And when the judgment thunders split the house,
Wrenching the rafters from their ancient rest,
He held the ridgepole up, and spiked again
The rafters of the Home. He held his place --
Held the long purpose like a growing tree --
Held on through blame and faltered not at praise.
And when he fell in whirlwind, he went down
As when a lordly cedar, green with boughs,
Goes down with a great shout upon the hills,
And leaves a lonesome place against the sky.

The Master. [Edwin Arlington Robinson]


A flying word from here and there
Had sown the name at which we sneered,
But soon the name was everywhere,
To be reviled and then revered:
A presence to be loved and feared,
We cannot hide it, or deny
That we, the gentlemen who jeered,
May be forgotten by and by.

He came when days were perilous
And hearts of men were sore beguiled;
And having made his note of us,
He pondered and was reconciled.
Was ever master yet so mild
As he, and so untamable?
We doubted, even when he smiled,
Not knowing what he knew so well.

He knew that undeceiving fate
Would shame us whom he served unsought;
He knew that he must wince and wait --
The jest of those for whom he fought;
He knew devoutly what he thought
Of us and of our ridicule;
He knew that we must all be taught
Like little children in a school.

We gave a glamour to the task
That he encountered and saw through,
But little of us did he ask,
And little did we ever do.
And what appears if we review
The season when we railed and chaffed?
It is the face of one who knew
That we were learning while we laughed.

The face that in our vision feels
Again the venom that we flung,
Transfigured to the world reveals
The vigilance to which we clung.
Shrewd, hallowed, harassed, and among
The mysteries that are untold,
The face we see was never young,
Nor could it ever have been old.

For he, to whom we have applied
Our shopman's test of age and worth,
Was elemental when he died,
As he was ancient at his birth:
The saddest among kings of earth,
Bowed with a galling crown, this man
Met rancor with a cryptic mirth,
Laconic -- and Olympian.

The love, the grandeur, and the fame
Are bounded by the world alone;
The calm, the smouldering, and the flame
Of awful patience were his own:
With him they are forever flown
Past all our fond self-shadowings,
Wherewith we cumber the Unknown
As with inept Icarian wings.

For we were not as other men:
'T was ours to soar and his to see.
But we are coming down again,
And we shall come down pleasantly;
Nor shall we longer disagree
On what it is to be sublime,
But flourish in our perigee
And have one Titan at a time.

On the Building of Springfield. [Nicholas Vachel Lindsay]

Let not our town be large -- remembering
That little Athens was the Muses' home;
That Oxford rules the heart of London still,
That Florence gave the Renaissance to Rome.

Record it for the grandson of your son --
A city is not builded in a day:
Our little town cannot complete her soul
Till countless generations pass away.

Now let each child be joined as to a church
To her perpetual hopes, each man ordained;
Let every street be made a reverent aisle
Where music grows, and beauty is unchained.

Let Science and Machinery and Trade
Be slaves of her, and make her all in all --
Building against our blatant restless time
An unseen, skillful, mediaeval wall.

Let every citizen be rich toward God.
Let Christ, the beggar, teach divinity --
Let no man rule who holds his money dear.
Let this, our city, be our luxury.

We should build parks that students from afar
Would choose to starve in, rather than go home --
Fair little squares, with Phidian ornament --
Food for the spirit, milk and honeycomb.

Songs shall be sung by us in that good day --
Songs we have written -- blood within the rhyme
Beating, as when old England still was glad,
The purple, rich, Elizabethan time.

Say, is my prophecy too fair and far?
I only know, unless her faith be high,
The soul of this our Nineveh is doomed,
Our little Babylon will surely die.

Some city on the breast of Illinois
No wiser and no better at the start,
By faith shall rise redeemed -- by faith shall rise
Bearing the western glory in her heart --

The genius of the Maple, Elm and Oak,
The secret hidden in each grain of corn --
The glory that the prairie angels sing
At night when sons of Life and Love are born --

Born but to struggle, squalid and alone,
Broken and wandering in their early years.
When will they make our dusty streets their goal,
Within our attics hide their sacred tears?

When will they start our vulgar blood athrill
With living language -- words that set us free?
When will they make a path of beauty clear
Between our riches and our liberty?

We must have many Lincoln-hearted men --
A city is not builded in a day --
And they must do their work, and come and go
While countless generations pass away.

The Poet's Town. [John G. Neihardt]


'Mid glad green miles of tillage
And fields where cattle graze,
A prosy little village,
You drowse away the days.

And yet -- a wakeful glory
Clings round you as you doze;
One living lyric story
Makes music of your prose.

Here once, returning never,
The feet of song have trod;
And flashed -- Oh, once forever! --
The singing Flame of God.


These were his fields Elysian:
With mystic eyes he saw
The sowers planting vision,
The reapers gleaning awe.

Serfs to a sordid duty,
He saw them with his heart,
Priests of the Ultimate Beauty,
Feeding the flame of art.

The weird, untempled Makers
Pulsed in the things he saw;
The wheat through its virile acres
Billowed the Song of Law.

The epic roll of the furrow
Flung from the writing plow,
The dactyl phrase of the green-rowed maize
Measured the music of Now.


Sipper of ancient flagons,
Often the lonesome boy
Saw in the farmers' wagons
The chariots hurled at Troy.

Trundling in dust and thunder
They rumbled up and down,
Laden with princely plunder,
Loot of the tragic Town.

And once when the rich man's daughter
Smiled on the boy at play,
Sword-storms, giddy with slaughter,
Swept back the ancient day!

War steeds shrieked in the quiet,
Far and hoarse were the cries;
And Oh, through the din and the riot,
The music of Helen's eyes!

Stabbed with the olden Sorrow,
He slunk away from the play,
For the Past and the vast To-morrow
Were wedded in his To-day.


Rich with the dreamer's pillage,
An idle and worthless lad,
Least in a prosy village,
And prince in Allahabad;

Lover of golden apples,
Munching a daily crust;
Haunter of dream-built chapels,
Worshipping in the dust;

Dull to the worldly duty,
Less to the town he grew,
And more to the God of Beauty
Than even the grocer knew!


Corn for the buyers, and cattle --
But what could the dreamer sell?
Echoes of cloudy battle?
Music from heaven and hell?

Spices and bales of plunder
Argosied over the sea?
Tapestry woven of wonder,
And myrrh from Araby?

None of your dream-stuffs, Fellow,
Looter of Samarcand!
Gold is heavy and yellow,
And value is weighed in the hand!


And yet, when the years had humbled
The Kings in the Realm of the Boy,
Song-built bastions crumbled,
Ash-heaps smothering Troy;

Thirsting for shattered flagons,
Quaffing a brackish cup,
With all of his chariots, wagons --
He never could quite grow up.

The debt to the ogre, To-morrow,
He never could comprehend:
Why should the borrowers borrow?
Why should the lenders lend?

Never an oak tree borrowed,
But took for its needs -- and gave.
Never an oak tree sorrowed;
Debt was the mark of the slave.

Grass in the priceless weather
Sucked from the paps of the Earth,
And the hills that were lean it fleshed with green --
Oh, what is a lesson worth?

But still did the buyers barter
And the sellers squint at the scales;
And price was the stake of the martyr,
And cost was the lock of the jails.


Windflowers herald the Maytide,
Rendering worth for worth;
Ragweeds gladden the wayside,
Biting the dugs of the Earth;

Violets, scattering glories,
Feed from the dewy gem:
But dreamers are fed by the living and dead --
And what is the gift from them?


Never a stalk of the Summer
Dreams of its mission and doom:
Only to hasten the Comer --
Martyrdom unto the Bloom.

Ever the Mighty Chooser
Plucks when the fruit is ripe,
Scorning the mass and letting it pass,
Keen for the cryptic type.

Greece in her growing season
Troubled the lands and seas,
Plotted and fought and suffered and wrought --
Building a Sophocles!

Only a faultless temple
Stands for the vassal's groan;
The harlot's strife and the faith of the wife
Blend in a graven stone.

Ne'er do the stern gods cherish
The hope of the million lives;
Always the Fact shall perish
And only the Truth survives.

Gardens of roses wither,
Shaping the perfect rose:
And the poet's song shall live for the long,
Dumb, aching years of prose.


King of a Realm of Magic,
He was the fool of the town,
Hiding the ache of the tragic
Under the grin of the clown.

Worn with the vain endeavor
To fit in the sordid plan;
Doomed to be poet forever,
He longed to be only a man;

To be freed from the god's enthralling,
Back with the reeds of the stream;
Deaf to the Vision calling,
And dead to the lash of the Dream.


But still did the Mighty Makers
Stir in the common sod;
The corn through its awful acres
Trembled and thrilled with God!

More than a man was the sower,
Lured by a man's desire,
For a triune Bride walked close at his side --
Dew and Dust and Fire!

More than a man was the plowman,
Shouting his gee and haw;
For a something dim kept pace with him,
And ever the poet saw;

Till the winds of the cosmic struggle
Made of his flesh a flute,
To echo the tune of a whirlwind rune
Unto the million mute.


Son of the Mother of mothers,
The womb and the tomb of Life,
With Fire and Air for brothers
And a clinging Dream for a wife;

Ever the soul of the dreamer
Strove with its mortal mesh,
And the lean flame grew till it fretted through
The last thin links of flesh.

Oh, rending the veil asunder,
He fled to mingle again
With the dred Orestean thunder,
The Lear of the driven rain!


Once in a cycle the comet
Doubles its lonesome track.
Enriched with the tears of a thousand years,
Aeschylus wanders back.

Ever inweaving, returning,
The near grows out of the far;
And Homer shall sing once more in a swing
Of the austere Polar Star.

Then what of the lonesome dreamer
With the lean blue flame in his breast?
And who was your clown for a day, O Town,
The strange, unbidden guest?


~'Mid glad green miles of tillage
And fields where cattle graze;
A prosy little village,
You drowse away the days.

And yet -- a wakeful glory
Clings round you as you doze;
One living, lyric story
Makes music of your prose!~

The New Life. [Witter Bynner]

Perhaps they laughed at Dante in his youth,
Told him that truth
Had unappealably been said
In the great masterpieces of the dead: --
Perhaps he listened and but bowed his head
In acquiescent honour, while his heart
Held natal tidings, -- that a new life is the part
Of every man that's born,
A new life never lived before,
And a new expectant art;
It is the variations of the morn
That are forever, more and more,
The single dawning of the single truth.
So answers Dante to the heart of youth!

Martin. [Joyce Kilmer]

When I am tired of earnest men,
Intense and keen and sharp and clever,
Pursuing fame with brush or pen
Or counting metal disks forever,
Then from the halls of shadowland
Beyond the trackless purple sea
Old Martin's ghost comes back to stand
Beside my desk and talk to me.

Still on his delicate pale face
A quizzical thin smile is showing,
His cheeks are wrinkled like fine lace,
His kind blue eyes are gay and glowing.
He wears a brilliant-hued cravat,
A suit to match his soft gray hair,
A rakish stick, a knowing hat,
A manner blithe and debonair.

How good, that he who always knew
That being lovely was a duty,
Should have gold halls to wander through
And should himself inhabit beauty.
How like his old unselfish way
To leave those halls of splendid mirth
And comfort those condemned to stay
Upon the bleak and sombre earth.

Some people ask: What cruel chance
Made Martin's life so sad a story?
Martin? Why, he exhaled romance
And wore an overcoat of glory.
A fleck of sunlight in the street,
A horse, a book, a girl who smiled, --
Such visions made each moment sweet
For this receptive, ancient child.

Because it was old Martin's lot
To be, not make, a decoration,
Shall we then scorn him, having not
His genius of appreciation?
Rich joy and love he got and gave;
His heart was merry as his dress.
Pile laurel wreaths upon his grave
Who did not gain, but was, success.

As in the Midst of Battle there is Room. [George Santayana]

As in the midst of battle there is room
For thoughts of love, and in foul sin for mirth;
As gossips whisper of a trinket's worth
Spied by the death-bed's flickering candle-gloom;
As in the crevices of Caesar's tomb
The sweet herbs flourish on a little earth:
So in this great disaster of our birth
We can be happy, and forget our doom.

For morning, with a ray of tenderest joy
Gilding the iron heaven, hides the truth,
And evening gently woos us to employ
Our grief in idle catches. Such is youth;
Till from that summer's trance we wake, to find
Despair before us, vanity behind.

Ex Libris. [Arthur Upson]

In an old book at even as I read
Fast fading words adown my shadowy page,
I crossed a tale of how, in other age,
At Arqua, with his books around him, sped
The word to Petrarch; and with noble head
Bowed gently o'er his volume that sweet sage
To Silence paid his willing seigniorage.
And they who found him whispered, "He is dead!"

Thus timely from old comradeships would I
To Silence also rise. Let there be night,
Stillness, and only these staid watchers by,
And no light shine save my low study light --
Lest of his kind intent some human cry
Interpret not the Messenger aright.

The Poet. [Mildred McNeal Sweeney]

Himself is least afraid
When the singing lips in the dust
With all mute lips are laid.
For thither all men must.
Nor is the end long stayed.

But he, having cast his song
Upon the faithful air
And given it speed -- is strong
That last strange hour to dare,
Nor wills to tarry long.

Adown immortal time
That greater self shall pass,
And wear its eager prime
And lend the youth it has
Like one far blowing chime.

He has made sure the quest
And now -- his word gone forth --
May have his perfect rest
Low in the tender earth,
The wind across his breast.

When I have gone Weird Ways. [John G. Neihardt]

When I have finished with this episode,
Left the hard, uphill road,
And gone weird ways to seek another load,
Oh, friends, regret me not, nor weep for me,
Child of Infinity!

Nor dig a grave, nor rear for me a tomb
To say with lying writ: "Here in the gloom
He who loved bigness takes a narrow room,
Content to pillow here his weary head,
For he is dead."

But give my body to the funeral pyre,
And bid the laughing fire,
Eager and strong and swift, like my desire,
Scatter my subtle essence into space,
Free me of time and place.

And sweep the bitter ashes from the hearth,
Fling back the dust I borrowed from the earth
Into the chemic broil of death and birth,
The vast alembic of the cryptic scheme,
Warm with the master-dream.

And thus, O little house that sheltered me,
Dissolve again in wind and rain, to be
Part of the cosmic weird economy.
And, Oh, how oft with new life shalt thou lift
Out of the atom-drift!

Trumbull Stickney. [George Cabot Lodge]


In silence, solitude and stern surmise
His faith was tried and proved commensurate
With life and death. The stone-blind eyes of Fate
Perpetually stared into his eyes,
Yet to the hazard of the enterprise
He brought his soul, expectant and elate,
And challenged, like a champion at the Gate,
Death's undissuadable austerities.
And thus, full-armed in all that Truth reprieves
From dissolution, he beheld the breath
Of daybreak flush his thought's exalted ways,
While, like Dodona's sad, prophetic leaves,
Round him the scant, supreme, momentous days
Trembled and murmured in the wind of Death.


There moved a Presence always by his side,
With eyes of pleasure and passion and wild tears,
And on her lips the murmur of many years,
And in her hair the chaplets of a bride;
And with him, hour by hour, came one beside,
Scatheless of Time and Time's vicissitude,
Whose lips, perforce of endless solitude,
Were silent and whose eyes were blind and wide.
But when he died came One who wore a wreath
Of star-light, and with fingers calm and bland
Smoothed from his brows the trace of mortal pain;
And of the two who stood on either hand,
"This one is Life," he said, "And this is Death,
And I am Love and Lord over these twain!"

Sentence. [Witter Bynner]

Shall I say that what heaven gave
Earth has taken? --
Or that sleepers in the grave

One sole sentence can I know,
Can I say:
You, my comrade, had to go,
I to stay.

Comrades. [George Edward Woodberry]

Where are the friends that I knew in my Maying,
In the days of my youth, in the first of my roaming?
We were dear; we were leal; O, far we went straying;
Now never a heart to my heart comes homing! --
Where is he now, the dark boy slender
Who taught me bare-back, stirrup and reins?
I loved him; he loved me; my beautiful, tender
Tamer of horses on grass-grown plains.

Where is he now whose eyes swam brighter,
Softer than love, in his turbulent charms;
Who taught me to strike, and to fall, dear fighter,
And gathered me up in his boyhood arms;
Taught me the rifle, and with me went riding,
Suppled my limbs to the horseman's war;
Where is he now, for whom my heart's biding,
Biding, biding -- but he rides far!

O love that passes the love of woman!
Who that hath felt it shall ever forget,
When the breath of life with a throb turns human,
And a lad's heart is to a lad's heart set?
Ever, forever, lover and rover --
They shall cling, nor each from other shall part
Till the reign of the stars in the heavens be over,
And life is dust in each faithful heart!

They are dead, the American grasses under;
There is no one now who presses my side;
By the African chotts I am riding asunder,
And with great joy ride I the last great ride.
I am fey; I am fain of sudden dying;
Thousands of miles there is no one near;
And my heart -- all the night it is crying, crying
In the bosoms of dead lads darling-dear.

Hearts of my music -- them dark earth covers;
Comrades to die, and to die for, were they;
In the width of the world there were no such rovers --
Back to back, breast to breast, it was ours to stay;
And the highest on earth was the vow that we cherished,
To spur forth from the crowd and come back never more,
And to ride in the track of great souls perished
Till the nests of the lark shall roof us o'er.

Yet lingers a horseman on Altai highlands,
Who hath joy of me, riding the Tartar glissade;
And one, far faring o'er orient islands
Whose blood yet glints with my blade's accolade;
North, west, east, I fling you my last hallooing,
Last love to the breasts where my own has bled;
Through the reach of the desert my soul leaps pursuing
My star where it rises a Star of the Dead.

Comrades. [Richard Hovey]

Comrades, pour the wine to-night
For the parting is with dawn!
Oh, the clink of cups together,
With the daylight coming on!
Greet the morn
With a double horn,
When strong men drink together!

Comrades, gird your swords to-night,
For the battle is with dawn!
Oh, the clash of shields together,
With the triumph coming on!
Greet the foe,
And lay him low,
When strong men fight together!

Comrades, watch the tides to-night,
For the sailing is with dawn!
Oh, to face the spray together,
With the tempest coming on!
Greet the sea
With a shout of glee,
When strong men roam together!

Comrades, give a cheer to-night,
For the dying is with dawn!
Oh, to meet the stars together,
With the silence coming on!
Greet the end
As a friend a friend,
When strong men die together!

Calverly's. [Edwin Arlington Robinson]

We go no more to Calverly's,
For there the lights are few and low;
And who are there to see by them,
Or what they see, we do not know.
Poor strangers of another tongue
May now creep in from anywhere,
And we, forgotten, be no more
Than twilight on a ruin there.

We two, the remnant. All the rest

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